By Tiffani Greenaway

Over the course of his career, we’ve seen Sean Combs go through a few name changes. In the 90’s, we knew him as Puffy and Puff Daddy, the mastermind behind Bad Boy Records. The 00’s gave birth to P. Diddy (after he was acquitted on charges stemming from a nightclub shooting), Diddy, then back to P. Diddy (after being sued by UK producer Richard “Diddy” Dearlove), followed by Sean John (in connection with his clothing line).

While celebrating his 48th birthday in Mexico, the mogul announced that he’d no longer answer to any of those names.

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“I’ve been praying on this and I decided – I know it was risky because it could come off as corny to some people. I decided to change my name again,” he said on social media. “I’m just not who I am before. I’m something different. So my new name is Love A.K.A. Brother Love,” he continued. “I will not be answering to Puffy, Diddy, Puff Daddy, or any of my other monikers but Love and Brother Love.”

Yasin Bey. Metta World Peace. Snoop Lion. Chad Ochocinco. It’s not the first time a celeb (or even Diddy) has changed his name. While the mogul later posted a video to Instagram saying that he was “only joking,” taking on a new name can have serious meaning–whether it’s a marketing ploy, a political statement, or a spiritual reawakening.

Snoop Lion

“I want to bury Snoop Dogg, and become Snoop Lion,” Calvin Broadus told journalists after returning from a visit to a Rastfarian temple in Jamaica. “I didn’t know that until I went to the temple, where the High Priest asked me what my name was, and I said, ‘SnoopDogg.’ And he looked me in my eyes and said, ‘No more. You are the light; you are the lion.’ From that moment on, it’s like I had started to understand why I was there.”

In Alex Haley’s historical novel, Roots, Kunta Kinte is stripped of the name bestowed upon him and forced to answer to “Toby.”

Scholar Henry Lois Gates references Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery, saying, “changing a surname was an attempt by a former slave to gain some psychological distance from a harsh master, specifically, or from the harsh realities of the nightmare of slavery, generally…taking a new name–a thoroughly American practice…reflects an attempt at self fashioning or reinvention. Adopting a new name…erases the past and dramatically forges a new identity…as a new person, a free person.”

Generations of African Americans have reconnected themselves to their heritage by giving up their “slave names,” and reclaiming the identities that were stolen from our ancestors–but getting friends, and especially family, to accept your new identity can be a challenge. In the 1988 classic, “Coming to America,” Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy’s barbershop characters discuss boxer Cassius Clay’s chosen name, Muhammad Ali.

Saul: A man has the right to change his name to whatever he wants to change it to. And if a man wants to be called Muhammad Ali, godammit this is a free country, you should respect his wishes, and call the man Muhammad Ali!
Morris: His mamma call him Clay, imma call him Clay.

Clarence: Ha-ha-ha! That’s right! That’s right! He gonna always be Clay to me. I don’t give a f–k what he change his name to. He is Clay! He Clay to me. I say Clay.


Ali himself spoke on his 1964 name change, saying, “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.”

In this era, when people are choosing to reaffirm themselves–through new names, new pronouns,–it’s important that we respect whatever identity they choose.

“It was amazing how many people treated me like my simple name change was an incredibly huge inconvenience to them,” says Sezin Kohler, who legally changed her name in 2015. “I’ve come to understand what happens when you change what others should call you and your sense of self shifts into its authentic place — and also the resistance from less compassionate, less respectful and less considerate people. There is a daily frustration of policing your own self-presentation, and discomfort when dealing with people who refuse to acknowledge that you aren’t who they expected you to be or who they wanted you to be.”

Don’t deny someone’s name. Don’t rob them of their identity. Respect them. Acknowledge them.

Choose Love.

 Have you ever changed your name or would you?

Tiffani Greenaway is the wife and mom behind MyMommyVents, a New York city parenting blog. Her tips have been seen on Yahoo Parenting, Mommy Noire, and Fit Pregnancy. Find more of Tiffani’s work at mymommyvents.com. Facebook: https://facebook.com/mymommyvents Twitter: https://twitter.co /mymommyventsInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/mymommyvents/

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